The Blood – Monstress Vol. 2

33540347by Marjorie Liu (writer) and Sana Takeda (artist)
Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
This is a review of issues 7-12

The first volume of this comic was my top read last year and I have been waiting for this installment ever since!

Volume one was a whirlwind of characters, backstories, adventures and world-building. I fell so hard for this story I was in a tailspin for days trying to process what I’d read and the fact that I’d be waiting six months for volume two.

This world of matriarchal societies and religions is full of war and chaos and Maika Halfwolf is our access point. She is bonded to a terrifying demon/monster inside her and it is this that spurs armies to hunt her and allies to hide her as a key to–probably the apocalypse, nobody really knows. In this installment Maika is still uncovering secrets from her mother’s past and what her own identity is. We get to see much more of the world–oceans, pirates, cursed isles–and I loved all of it!

Maika’s relationship with the monster inside her takes center stage this time as we learn about its past and what might come of their strange relationship. Kippa and Master Ren refuse to abandon Maika, although her violent episodes happen more frequently. The new characters we meet endeared themselves to me instantly! And although it ends with another cliff-hanger, it’s not too harsh.

Now that the world is established I felt it was easier to sink into this volume. It wasn’t as hard to keep track of all the different forces at work. Everything I loved about the first volume was expanded upon here and I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Monstress: The Blood is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Decidely more lighthearted than Monstress, this explores similar themes from a quirky perspective. Nimona is a shape-shifter who apprentices herself to villain Lord Blackheart. He quickly realizes there is more to her than a desire for villainy. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species – A YA novel that tackles a murder, rape culture, and sexism through the eyes of three senior students in a small town. See my review here.
  • Lady Snowblood: The Deep-Seated Grudge Part 1 by Kazuo Koike – An accomplished assassin, Lady Snowblood is finally ready to take down the men responsible for her family’s deaths.
Advertisements

You’re Welcome, Universe

25701463by Whitney Gardner
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 7, 2017

From the first chapter, Julia’s adamant self-confidence prepared me for a wild ride! When her friend is the victim of a graffiti slur on the school’s wall, Julia takes care of it herself. It’s what friends are for, right? Apparently not, because Jordyn rats her out, and Julia is expelled.

At her new school, Julia has to have an interpreter–she is the only Deaf student.  She’s ready for a fresh-start trust-no-one no-friends year, until her tags start getting attention from another artist, forcing her to retaliate.

The short chapters flew by (embellished with artwork!) as Julia reluctantly befriends an ex-cheerleader she dubs YP and hides her continued passion for painting from her moms. Her friendship with YP ended up being the gold nugget of this book for me! I loved that this story explored the highs and lows of friendships through Jordyn and YP–the devastation of betrayal and the joy of finding someone who Gets You.

Julia’s self-assurance gives her the confidence to strike out on her own, but it also lands her in serious trouble. The contrast of needing faith in yourself with knowing when you’re wrong made her such a fun character to spend time with. Even when I knew she was screwing up I was cheering for her! So many YA books focus on obtaining confidence to begin with, which is fine, but it’s fun to spend time with a girl who acts first and contemplates later (if ever).

What else did I love? Every character had the chance to show Julia (and me) the layers beneath a first impression. Good or bad, nobody was merely what Julia saw at first glance and it’s even more impressive in such a short book.

What else did I love? We stick to a pretty routine high school schedule. So often I find myself thinking “Oh yeah, homework, class, an after-school job…where are those elements?” For me, high school was busy! Julia is too, and her mundane job at McDonald’s is part of her life. Having a crush on her coworker–and watching her ex-best friend flirt with him–is part of her life. That feeling of high school being a small and pervasive bubble of drama you can’t escape is so real here!

Honestly there’s just a lot to love! This is a quick read with cool art, grab it! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, You’re Welcome, Universe is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – What struck me about You’re Welcome, Universe was the friendship and this is a goldmine of female friendships! See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – A beautiful story about a girl finding herself and her strength through her poetry, as told in her senior year diary. See my review here.
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is convinced she is cursed with bad luck, but a trip to her family’s relatives in Ireland convinces her to try a new form of therapy. A wry and emotional story of Maguire’s progress in the form of challenges she sets herself, with good friendships and a bit of romance along the way. See my review here.

Our Own Private Universe

22082082by Robin Talley
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

I wanted a follow-up to “Georgia Peaches” and I was pretty happy with this one!

Aki has always wondered if she is bisexual, and a month in Mexico on a mission trip becomes a way for her to test her theories about herself and her life. An instant crush on Christa, a girl from another youth group quickly leads to explosive feelings between the two of them and a lot of hard decisions to make regarding who can know about their relationship and what exactly it means to each of them.

This story is high on the romance and high on the drama—honestly it reminded me a lot of high school and youth group experiences I had (the drama that is—anything LGBTQ did not fly) so I was pleasantly surprised to be hit with some nostalgia. Aki and Christa experience some instant-attraction that quickly becomes something more, but for me it didn’t veer into the “insta-love” category. I really liked Aki’s complicated relationship with her best friend and her older brother, and the fact that the mission trip never faded to the background. Aki and Christa must work their relationship around their chores and activities with the children, and it added a charming fish-out-of-water element to the plot. I was a bit uncomfortable with Aki choosing to call her relationship with Christa an “experiment” in the beginning (because she was testing her Bisexuality Theory for herself). It gets kind of convoluted with her wish to be more active instead of passive in her life generally, but I think it was clear that it was a quirk of Aki’s and not yielding to the stereotype.

It gets a bit heavy-handed towards the end because Aki helps organize a debate designed to educate the church members on social issues for the church conference coming up. (Several churches came together to do the mission trip and are trying to get the official organization statement put together for the conference). But overall, this was a fun fast read!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Our Own Private Universe is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – Another take on Christian girls who are into girls. Jo’s dad is a pastor, and for years she has wanted to add an LGBTQ-friendly radio show to his extensive radio ministry. She might finally get her wish—if she can pretend to be straight for his new wife’s extended family, until she graduates high school. Sketchy, but fine, Jo agrees. And then she meets beautiful, funny, sensitive Mary Carlson. See my review here.
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – A princess betrothed to a prince in a neighboring country moves there for her upcoming wedding. And while she desperately tries to feel something for her fiancé, she faces her growing attraction to his sister. So cute and romantic! See my review here.
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon is only “out” with his mysterious email pen pal Blue. Both of them haven’t told each other their real names, but their growing relationship is threatened by another student who will expose their emails to the school unless Simon helps him land a girlfriend. See my review here.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

28512466by Jaye Robin Brown
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

On this day of celebrating love in all its forms, I recommend this romantic story of two small-town southern Christian girls falling in love despite doing their darndest to deny their feelings! (Seriously, wouldn’t everyone enjoy Valentine’s Day more if it was a bit more inclusive? Romantic love isn’t the only kind that matters!)

As true winter finally sets in, it was nice to read about the warmth of Georgia for a change! Jo Gordon is an out and proud pastor’s daughter, but now that her father has married wife number three who comes with an ultra-conservative family, he wants to move Jo from Atlanta to small-town Rome, and also wants her to keep her true sexuality under wraps for her senior year. Jo agrees, only if he finally gives her the green light for adding her own LGBTQ-friendly youth radio program to his booming Christian radio ministry. The bargain is struck, and Jo transforms into Joanna, the wholesome girl her new extended family will love. Ten months of passing to get her ultimate wish of running a radio show that could help hundreds of teens like her—but Joanna didn’t count on meeting the girl of her dreams.

I loved everything about this story except the weird bargain between Jo and her father (yes, I know that’s the foundational premise). Her supportive dad asking her to change herself that way feels so wrong, and what’s worse is Jo’s agreement to it. But all that aside, her continued waffling over why she can’t tell her friends (and then her secret girlfriend) the truth makes less and less sense. I don’t enjoy plots that hinge on a Secret, especially when keeping the secret seems like the least logical option.

However, everything else is so well-done that I was able to keep suspending my disbelief. We see both sides of Christianity’s viewpoint on the LGBTQ community, and we see so many characters offering flat-out rejection as well as supportive acceptance. So many misconceptions and stereotypes about lesbians and being queer are hammered out without it feeling like the author is stepping in to present her views. Jo’s relationships with her friends, her father, and her stepmother evolve in wonderfully believable ways. I also liked how the Christian community was portrayed–especially faith’s importance to Jo. Interwoven through all of it is the fierce attraction between Jo and Mary Carlson, and their chemistry is perfect!

The characters are what make this story come alive and I loved their journeys! It’s a cute romance with so many feelings! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – This came to me highly recommended and I loved it so much! Simon is not out to everyone, but that choice might disappear thanks to another student who threatens to expose Simon’s email correspondence with a boy named Blue. With great sarcasm and poise, Simon deals with blackmail and trying to discover the identity of the boy he loves. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – This is an adorable high school romance with one of the best girl squads I’ve ever read! See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – First Lara Jean and Peter pretended to be together, now they’re actually together, but high school rumors threaten to end their relationship for good. See my review here.
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – A rom com set in Italy (prepare to be hungry) and Lina tries to resist the charm of her estranged father, the boy next door, and Italy itself. But family secrets demand she gives everything a closer look. See my review here.

Frost Like Night

28512486by Sara Raasch
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This series had so many ups and downs for me–the first book intrigued me, the second bored me, and this one brought everything together in a satisfying conclusion!

Meira receives a guide to ending Angra’s decay when Rares appears and offers to impart all the knowledge of the Order of the Lustrate. Mather wants to protect Meira at all costs–which is difficult when he realizes she’s gone to Paisley without him. And Ceridwen has no time to heal her broken heart–someone has to organize an army to help Meira and that’s her. All of them have only days to defeat Angra before the Decay claims all the kingdoms and binds them into an empire of fear and darkness.

Meira’s journey is emotional and struck the same chords as other fantasy trilogies I read this year–I love reading about these young women finding confidence in themselves despite terrible hardships and overwhelming responsibilities.

Mather and Ceridwen have equally powerful character arcs which is such a refreshing thing. Sometimes side characters don’t have the same vibrancy but in this book I was never inclined to skip ahead to Meira’s chapters. Mather must come to terms with what protecting Meira truly means, and Ceridwen has to decide if the deep scars on her heart will ever let her live and love again.

There is a lot of plot to cover in this finale but battle plans and information are deftly handled for the most part. (There’s a bit of a rush to explain how all the magic works and what Meira needs to do but after that it’s smooth sailing). It’s not a perfect happily ever after but it’s an ending worthy of the characters. Definitely my favorite book of the trilogy!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Frost Like Night is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski – This is another immensely satisfying end to a trilogy. Kestrel and Arin have never been further apart, but both of them are working to end the war between their kingdoms. Kestrel must survive and escape a work camp, and Arin must decide if he can forgive the girl he loves–especially now that their relationship hangs by a thread. See my review here.
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – An incredible end to an incredible trilogy! Karou and Akiva strive to bring peace between seraphs and chimaera with the added complication of seraphs invading present-day Earth. This book astounded me with the complexity of its plot and characters! See my review here.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – This is a fast-paced story with multiple kingdoms all fighting to capture Safi, a rare Truthwitch than can always tell truth from lies. The pacing and multitude of complicate character relationships remind me a lot of the Snow Like Ashes trilogy. See my review here.
  • Abhorsen by Garth Nix – The end of the first three books finds Lirael and Sabriel fighting to destroy Orannis before the dark power destroys the world. It’s an epic end to the story of two women discovering their powers and their destinies to step in when no one else can.

Awakening – Monstress Vol. 1

29396738by Marjorie Liu (writer) & Sana Takeda (artist)
Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
This is a review of the first 6 issues of Monstress

When I finished this story I was incoherent for hours. It felt like I’d been waiting for this to be made for years without knowing it! I picked it up months ago and I have no idea how Janella was so calm after she read and asked if I’d gotten to it yet and I said, “Oh, I will soon!” (months later)

This is phenomenal and quite possibly my favorite read of 2016! Every page had me enthralled — the art is rich with detail and beauty, the story is dark and captivating, the characters come alive with every panel.

We meet the Arcanic Maika when she is nude and chained, about to be sold as a slave to humans–and this is not the first time. But we quickly learn something else is at work, and once she begins to orchestrate her escape there isn’t a moment to breathe until the last page!

Maika’s mysterious past comes to light, always raising more questions than answers, especially when it comes to the strange power lurking inside her. Sharp and aloof, she is unable to keep allies away from her. Whether that is her closest friend Tuya or Kippa, a fox Arcanic she rescues. There are wonderful twists and surprises within these pages, but the basic plot follows Maika Halfwolf as she tries to uncover her dead mother’s secrets and avenge her murder.

I definitely do not want to spoil this collection! Aside from intense world-building, plot, and pacing, the themes of war, power, racism, slavery, and what makes a monster hit you hard with unapologetic candor. Yet another bold move is a 95% female cast coupled with intersectionality that is hard to find in YA novels.

Reading this called to mind Mad Max: Fury Road–I honestly have never read anything like this that could have me tearing up, laughing, or sweating bullets at any given moment.

There are already several more issues out if you just can’t wait, and I would guess the next bound volume will be released summer 2017. I can’t recommend this enough!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb (writer) & Jim Lee (artist) – I haven’t read nearly enough graphic novels but I love the art in this one and the story intrigued me as well. All your DC favorites are here to deliver exactly what you’d hope for from a Batman comic.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Decidely more lighthearted than Monstress, this explores similar themes from a quirky perspective. Nimona is a shape-shifter who apprentices herself to villain Lord Blackheart. He quickly realizes there is more to her than a desire for villainy. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species – A YA novel that tackles a murder, rape culture, and sexism through the eyes of three senior students in a small town. See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere apprentices herself to the Red Church in hopes of becoming a skilled assassin that can avenge her family’s murder. See my review here.
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – This is the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s crime novel series and it’s by far the darkest. If you want a thriller mystery that makes you a bit uncomfortable, try this out. See my review here.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – This novella is one of my favorites. The unnamed narrator describes experiences from his childhood and realizes with increasing alarm that the strange and deadly things happening were not in his imagination as his family insisted. See my review here.

Heartless

18584855by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass many times, and I can tell Meyer has too. This is a superb, well-written origin story for a beloved/feared villain! Fairy tales have been popular for a couple of years now, but this is one of the most seamless integrations of old and new world-building I’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take the most famous nonsensical world and create rules behind the madness–this subtlety is probably the best surprise.

Cath is a marquess’ daughter who wants nothing more than to open a bakery in Hearts with her best friend, her maid Mary Ann. She knows it would be the best in the land, and she wants everyone in the kingdom to sample her delicious sweets. But her parents know the King of Hearts wants to make Cath his queen, and they will not be satisfied until that happens. The night that Cath is supposed to accept the king’s proposal, she meets Jest–the new court joker who is mysterious, charming, clever, and handsome. Cath has never been in love before, but she can’t imagine giving up her feelings for the weak and foolish king, even if it comes with a crown. And on top of all this, the fearsome Jabberwock is terrorizing the kingdom unchallenged!

Cath is a perfect balance of admirable and awful. She is our protagonist, but she is far from perfect. Too deferential to her parents, too judgmental of others. Like so many of us, she feels caught in situations that never go as planned because she can’t challenge etiquette or her peers. She is just risk-adverse enough to aggravate herself and those around her. I loved following her journey that felt equally chosen and fated.

Cath is great, but the side characters of Hatta, Cheshire, and Jest make this impossibly magical! Hatta and Cheshire in particular capture the dark whimsy and unpredictable nature of life in Wonderland. Magic is inextricable from life in Hearts, yet there’s also the sense that it can continue evolving outside of the people’s control. This story gives you characters to love and a world that fascinates you at every turn!

Warning: will cause Emotions and hunger pains. Pick this up if you’re ready to be transported!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – If you enjoyed this retelling, check out this quartet of sci-fi fairy tale adventures! Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing just trying to break free from her abusive stepmother’s control. A chance encounter with Prince Kai pulls her into the web of politics between Earth and Luna, and Cinder’s mysterious past might hold the key to Earth’s future. See my review here.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose awakens from her statis tube to learn that 62 years have passed, everyone she has ever known is dead, and she is the sole heir to her parents’ business empire. The current head of the company is not pleased that she was found, and will do anything to keep her from reclaiming her life.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a girl whose gifts lie with honey and the new ruler of the land, a former priest of fire whose touch can reduce anything to ash. See my review here.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – Triplet sisters with different abilities are raised in separate realms as they prepare for their 16th birthday, and the duel to the death for the throne. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina is a marked survivor of the blood fever with the ability to weave extraordinary illusions. Determined to avenge herself on those who made her life miserable, she joins other elites like her in the Dagger Society. See my review here.
  • Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes – If you want a trilogy based on this famed character, look no further! Dinah is the Princess of Hearts eagerly awaiting her crown, but violent events in her kingdom threaten to destroy her dreams.
  • Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – If you haven’t read the source material, I highly recommend it! It is utterly strange and entertaining, and despite its age the prose is easy to read. There are many more bizarre events and eccentric characters that are left out of films and re-tellings, and the wordplay is clever!

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: